Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Perelandra

CS Lewis wrote three science fiction novels. I happened to find the first one, Out of the Silent Planet, in a box from my childhood, or probably from one of my brother's childhood. I doubt I would have read it, except that it was written by CS Lewis. It is an odd story about Dr Ransom who is kidnapped and taken to Mars. Sounds cheesy, and it was, but I liked it. Now I'm reading Perelandra, which I found on the bookshelves of our friends Ben and Sherri Tobias. They have a lot of good books on their shelves. It isn't striking me, but like the first book in the trilogy, it is picking up steam.

I'm including this excerpt because it struck me metaphorically the way I feel with God. Lewis says at the beginning, this book is NOT allegory. But see what you make of this excerpt, the beginning of chapter 6.

As soon as the Lady was out of sight Ransom's first impulse was to run his hands through his hair, to expel the breath from his lungs in a long whistle, to light a cigarette, to put his hands in his pockets, and in general, to go through all that ritual of relaxation which a man performs on finding himself alone after a rather trying interview. But he had no cigarettes and no pockets: nor indeed did he feel himself alone. That sense of being in Someone's Presence which had descended on him with such unbearable pressure during the very first moments of his conversation with the Lady did not disappear when he had left her. It was, if anything, increased. Her society had been, in some degree, a protection against it, and her absence left him not to solitude but to a more formidable kind of privacy. At first it was almost intolerable; as he put it to us, in telling the story, "There seemed no room." But later on, he discovered that it was intolerable only at certain moments -- at just those moments in fact (symbolised by his impulse to smoke and to put his hands in his pockets) when a man asserts his independence and feels that now at last he's on his own. When you felt like that, then the very air seemed too crowded to breathe; a complete fulness seemed to be excluding you from a place which, nevertheless, you were unable to leave. But when you gave in to the thing, gave yourself up to it, there was no burden to be borne. It became no a load but a medium, a sort of splendour as of eatable, drinkable, breathable gold, which fed and carried you and not only poured into you but out from you as well. Taken the wrong way, it suffocated; taken the right way, it made terrestrial life seem, by comparison, a vacuum. At first, of course, the wrong moments occurred pretty often. But like a man who has a wound that hurts him in certain positions, Ransom learned not to make that inner gesture. His day became better and better as the hours passed.

1 comment:

dan h. said...

Wow. I like that. I've actually never read anything by Lewis in its entirety. But I like this.
Thanks for posting it.